6 posts categorized "Political History"

January 22, 2021

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

Trial_of_the_chicago_sevenGlib. Forgettable. Writer/director Aaron Sorkin gets out his arsenal of narrative formula templates to simplify an otherwise complex story of ‘60s era political theater. The effect is entertaining up to a point before it hits you that Robert Altman would have been much better at telling the story at hand if he were still alive. Hell, Oliver Stone would have done a better job.

The trial in question arose from the actions of a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The film’s ensemble of actors (Yaha Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon, Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Jeremy Strong, and John Carroll Lynch) give credible performances that come across as an afterthought in the context of Sorkin’s heavy hand.

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Courtroom dramas are a notoriously prickly genre to begin with. This one finds Aaron Sorkin falling on his own sword. The movie plays more as a showpiece of Hollywood machinery than as a filmic document of a crisis of ideologies at a time when it seemed that the People might get a leg up on the corruption at the heart of the American war machine. As if such a thing could be possible.

Chicago 7

From a technical standpoint, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is serviceable but Sorkin’s knee-jerk quick-cutting crutch wears out its welcome. Aaron Sorkin’s motivations for making the movie in our current political climate seems like a foregone conclusion. Nothing has the emotional weight it purports to possess even if the actors are compelling in their roles as voices of dissent. The problem is that Sorkin wants so badly to deliver a feel-good movie that he misses all of the heartbreak inflicted on the accused activists who never agreed on anything. This is a Cheese Whiz movie for 12-year-olds, not for adults.  

Chicago 7

Rated R. 129 mins.

Two Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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January 19, 2021

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

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It speaks volumes that the two best films of 2020 were based on plays (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “One Night In Miami”). Both films directly address the Black experience in America, albeit at different cataclysmic moments in the country’s history.

Kemp Powers’s deep-dive 2013 play of the same title (“One Night In Miami” provides director Regina King with plenty of thematic substance to bring Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) to radiant life. King’s flawless direction is as the precise as the on-point performances of her talented actors.   

Onenightinmiami

I’m guessing that Regina King spent an extensive rehearsal period with her actors, considering how exquisitely each man fulfills the speech patterns and mannerisms of towering historic figures whose social influence continues to inspire people the world over. I can’t say enough good things about the sublime work that Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr. perform in “One Night In Miami.” Truly great acting all around. Kudos to this amazing ensemble.

One_night_in_miami

The set-up is a fictionalized meeting in 1964 between Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke at Miami’s Hampton House hotel, the only segregated hotel of the Civil Rights era still standing today. The contentious conversations that follow give insight to each pivotal Black leader’s psyche and ways of navigating an openly racist country that treats each man with suspicion. The film’s elegiac tableau hits all the right grace notes, supplied by Sam Cooke. You’ll feel the feeling right down to your toes.

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Rated R. 114 mins.

Five Stars

Cozy Cole

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March 18, 2016

JFK — CLASSIC FILM PICK

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

Jfk-movie-posterOliver Stone’s “JFK” (1992) is a milestone filmic achievement based on New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Garrison’s tireless inquiry resulted in the indictment and 1969 trial of Clay Shaw — known as “Clem Bertrand” in the New Orleans gay underground where he held court with the likes of Lee Harvey Oswald during the summer of 1963.

With the aid of co-screenwriter Zachary Sklar, Oliver Stone builds the fact-based drama toward Bertrand’s trial to complete this film’s appropriately tempered thematic arc.  

In the best performance of his career, Kevin Costner expresses Jim Garrison’s keen sense of personal integrity to shed essential light on a carefully orchestrated murder whose executioners will likely only be discovered long after the last one has died.

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Jim Garrison’s book “On the Trail of the Assassins,” and Jim Marrs’s “Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy,” provides the source material that Oliver Stone deftly manipulates with cinematic finesse.

A clip from Eisenhower’s famous 1961 farewell address, during which he warns of the military-industrial complex, sets the tone. The unknown distances between conspiracy theories and conspiracy facts create a wormhole that would have easily have swallowed a lesser filmmaker.

Stone shores up a veritable sea of conspiratorial facts (linked to the C.I.A., the F.B.I. the Secret Service, the U.S. military, and the Dallas Police Department) with a condensed cinematic rendering that does much more than just put names to faces.

Screen Shot 2022-04-10 at 10.14.04 PMThe filmmaker contextualizes a “coup d'état” that was as devastating to American foreign policy as the murder of their 35th President was to its citizens.

Gary Oldman’s spot-on portrayal of Lee Harvey Oswald shows the nimble CIA operative to have fit the bill of a patsy, the word that Oswald used to describe his detention to television cameras.

Jfk-movie

Systematic mishandling of evidence by the CIA, the Secret Service, the F.B.I., and by Dallas Police recur at a staggering rate. The CIA’s rerouting of Kennedy’s procession path at 11pm on the night before, to go past the crow’s nest-ready book depository reeks like week-old tuna.

Having served in battle in Viet Nam, the veteran soldier Stone has explained from his own experience in the military, it would take four cells of eight “mechanics” (a total of 32 agents) charged to carry out a mission they don’t comprehend until the last possible second. As with firing squads where all but one are firing blanks, none of the could-be assassins would even know if he fired the kill shot.

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As more facts become known about the Kennedy assassination — through investigations such as the one performed in the documentary “JFK: The Smoking Gun” Oliver Stone’s “JFK” remains an important touchstone. Stone pulls out every trick in his arsenal of cinema vocabulary. The result

is a fitting cinematic tribute to John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and to Jim Garrison, two men cut from the same cloth of personal accountability.

Rated R. 189 mins.

5 StarsCozy Cole

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